BB from the Mesa sends me a gigantic (28” x 16” x 18”) carved Ch’an Chu, the legendary Chinese three-legged frog of wealth, carved in jadeite. The stone appears to be similar in color and execution to sculptures found at the Guangzhou Jade Factory and Market in China today, and I suspect it's not antique. BB bought the piece, they told her was Russian jade, at an auction years ago. Not only is the frog typical of images of the Chinese mythical magic money frog, but the myth behind the icon is steeped in Chinese lore involving the boundary crossing frog/toad, the female energy of the moon, water, riches, and their cosmic protection. If you don’t believe that a magic frog can ward off your debts and pay off your bills, read on.
No one knows just how old this symbol is, but a few Chinese myths help tell the story. Anuran (frog-toad family) creatures can live on land or water, notorious as powerful jumpers over obstacles. The frog/toad is identified with female (Yin) energy through the moon, and anyone who has heard the chorus of frogs upon the full moon will attest to the link. The goddess of the moon, Ch’ang O, chasing after the medicine for immortality, left her house and husband, and followed the white tablet of the moon. She achieved her moon-place and immortality, and has left her seal and sign imprinted on the moon’s surface in the shape of a toad/frog. Ch’ang O exemplifies the Ying principle: her husband (when finally immortal) is the sun, the Yang. When they reconcile, and he joins her monthly, the moon is at its most perfect, and the frogs sing the loudest in the silvery glow.
In another myth involving a frog/toad, the ancient alchemist–sage, Liu-hai (10th century) is said to have fished a three-legged toad from a well, who then gave him eternal life: Liu-hai carries this toad immortally on his back with a string of eggs and coins. In another myth of the frog, the Danwu Dragon Boat festival of the Chinese mid-summer homeopathically invokes five poisonous creatures for protection against maladies of the hot summer, such as scorpions, snakes, bees, spiders and toads. So this frog/toad creature protects, reflects the moon, (and silver and water), can surmount obstacles (with an extra leg, that’s even easier), and yet is both fierce and docile, humble and incredibly important (to the bio-system). And can guard us towards abundance and ease.
BB’s money-frog jade sculpture sits atop a pile of coins with square hole centers, I- Ching coins, which ward off evil and disease. He holds a string in his mouth from which hangs threaded I Ching coins; these coins on his back are etched with a bird-dragon motif. The bumps on his back sometimes bear seven gemstones in the shape of a heavenly constellation, reflecting the cosmic energy in all things. If the cosmic breath blows your way, prosperity and protection of riches will follow. He stays there to make sure this happens.
BB’s frog image bears a relationship in Feng Shui, the use of certain material things influences Chi, or cosmic energy, to operate favorably. As that energy is the building block of the cosmos, a human creature can manipulate objects to enhance ultimate energy flow. In the jadeite frog’s case, he harmonizes his owner’s home to protect wealth. Some Ch’an Chu frogs not only sit on money, but some sit on boat or egg shaped ingots, supported on a shaped mirror called a Bagwa divided into eight parts. This Bagwa was created in the cosmos on the back of a huge water creature to ward off bad energy. Thus, the money frog holds his money on top of the Bagwa to protect it from negative flow. The money frog often holds a single coin in its mouth, looking straight ahead with red eyes and a fierce expression. Although BB’s sculpture isn't antique, the story it tells is ancient, and its imagery is mythical. Whatever riches the Ch’an Chu protects for BB, I wonder if he has been potently successful?
The market value for BB’s money frog is mainly its considerable weight in jade, the best child of the semi-precious family ‘jadeite’. Does this Ch’an Chu beckon wealth for BB? BB, a smaller version recently sold in Great Britain for $1,200. I estimate your money frog to be worth $3,000-$4,000.
Certified appraiser for estates, inheritances and trusts.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart's column appears every week in the Salon & Style section of the Santa Barbara News Press. Email her your questions and high-resolution photos at ElizabethAppraisals @ gmail.com
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